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State Closing Last Three Developmental Centers; Community ‘Blindsided’ by Plan

On Tuesday, legislators heard concerns about the state’s new timeline for closing the three remaining developmental centers in California.

As part of the May budget revise, a closure goal of 2018 was set for the Sonoma Developmental Center and the roughly 400 developmentally disabled people who reside there. The other two remaining centers, Fairview Developmental Center in Southern California and Porterville Developmental Center in the Central Valley, are slated to shut down by 2021 under the new plan.

The state’s Department of Developmental Services has been tasked with creating a transition plan for the Sonoma center by Oct. 1.

At Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, DDS director Santi Rogers said he knows it’s a tight timeline.

“The ambitious aspect of the proposal is the time frame,” Rogers said.

That raised concern among legislators.

“Closing Sonoma by 2018 is a really fast pace,” state Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) said. “What assurances should we publicly state that we will ensure these people get proper care?”

Rogers said lessons have been learned from previous closures. “Our real ambition is to have a same or better outcome from the previous closures,” Rogers said.

But health care advocates pointed out that the most recent closure of Agnews Developmental Center near San Jose took five years.

“The 2018 date, while laudable, is unrealistic,” said Coby Pizzotti, legislative advocate for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians. “It’s important to develop community supports and resources before you start setting goals in place,” Pizzotti said. “We would like [legislators] to amend the language from … the Oct. 1 deadline to April 1.”

Pizzotti said the community had no warning this action was coming so quickly.

“We were absolutely blindsided by the May revise,” Pizzotti said. “We had little to no warning this was going to transpire.”

Shawn Martin, a policy analyst at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, said legislators should keep a close eye on the closures, given the tight timeline.

“The proposed closures are faster than Lanternman and Agnews [developmental centers], so it will be important to put safety measures in place to ensure the health, safety and well-being all the individuals in the developmental centers who transfer to the community,” Martin said.

State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said the $49.3 million proposed for shutting down the Sonoma facility should have a matching amount of money to set up alternate care settings in the community for the people at those centers.

“One of my disappointments in the May revise is that, while there is funding allocated to try to achieve these closure objectives, there isn’t a commensurate investment in the community and regional centers,” Monning said.

“I think that’s going to be a focus … within the Legislature in both houses,” he said. “I think it’s unrealistic and unfair to suggest we could allocate resources for the closure and not have commensurate investment.”

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